Hundreds of women fight professionally, but there haven’t been many matches in Southern California. So there was a lot of buzz around Saturday's fight, billed as “Fists of Hope”—mostly because World Boxing Council flyweight champion Mariana “La Barbie” Juarez was returning to Southern California after a long absence. She would be defending her title for the 14th time.
“I used to live here in L.A., from 2002 until about 2007," said La Barbie, answering questions during her press conference. "I came here looking for my dream to become a boxer; this is where I started my career; where I first became a world champion. I have since returned to Mexico, but I owe a lot to this city.”
Twenty-four year-old Japanese boxer Shindo Go didn’t get too much love at the press conference for the fight—the room was full of Mexican-Americans and Spanish speakers. Besides, the fight was targeted mostly to a traditional Mexican, boxing-loving crowd.
“The Latino public here is demanding new kinds of events," said Cesar Canavati, a Mexico City-based boxing promoter making inroads into the local Latino scene. "They’ve already had enough of banda music and soccer matches. They want to see new things coming from Mexico, and elsewhere. And I think they’re demanding that because we now have this strong, local, outspoken Latino market.”
Finally, fight day arrived. Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, which seats 10,000 people, is about a quarter full—not quite the turnout promoters expected. Tickets were priced from $50 to $275. But the people who were there seem excited for the main event—a rare opportunity to watch a boxing match with women fighters.
Shindo Go and La Barbie got right to it in the first round; actually, Go did. With quick hands and sharp reflexes, she kept La Barbie on the defensive. La Barbie, who is 32, looked weak.
By the final round, the crowd wasn’t sure who was winning the fight. Go is clearly the more aggressive boxer, but the judges end up declaring La Barbie the winner by a slight margin.
After picking up her winning belt, La Barbie was swept away from the ring by a group of fans, promoters, and a mariachi band. Covered in sweat and with a bloody lip, she recognized that Shindo Go was the strongest contender for her title.
Outside the stadium, some fans said the rightful winner should have been Shindo Go. Harlen Garcia, who drove from L.A. to watch the fight, said the judges may have been biased towards La Barbie.
“I really liked the other girl," said Garcia, referring to Go. "She was very good; never stopped, always right after her. And I guess just because most everybody here was Mexican, they gave it to [La Barbie]. Maybe because she’s a champ? I don’t know.”
Go’s camp wants a rematch here in Southern California, but the promoter doesn’t have plans for another women’s fight here yet. La Barbie’s next fight is scheduled for this Fall in Chicago, where she hopes to fight another Mexican boxer, Jackie Nava.